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Bill would expand hand salutes when not in uniform

Jun. 7, 2013 - 03:40PM   |  
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A Nebraska congressman has reintroduced a bill to settle a debate about rendering hand salutes when not in uniform.

Republican Rep. Lee Terry, who never served in the military but whose congressional district includes Offutt Air Force Base, is sponsoring the Veterans Equality to Salute Act, or VETS Act.

The bill, HR 2284, would allow service members and veterans who are not in uniform to render hand salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance, rather than putting their hands over their hearts.

The bill was referred the House Judiciary Committee, the congressional panel responsible for all things related to the American flag and saluting.

Terry’s effort is supported by Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s largest organization for combat veterans.

He introduced a similar bill in 2011, and the idea was passed by the House last year as a provision attached to 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill. But it was dropped during negotiations with the Senate.

“This common-sense legislation creates parity for those veterans and active-duty military not in uniform who want to give a military-style salute when they are reciting the Pledge of Allegiance,” Terry said in a statement, adding that a local VFW chapter suggested the change.

The change would not be unprecedented. In 2008, Congress amended the flag code to allow veterans and service members not in uniform to issue hand salutes when the U.S. flag is raised or lowered. In 2009, the code was changed to allow a hand salute during the playing of the National Anthem.

Terry’s legislation includes no enforcement mechanism to determine if the person giving a hand salute is or has served in the military.

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